On the origin of beliefs
FFRF awarded Allen $200 for his essay.
By Allen Papp
Coming from a conservative Christian family and attending a Catholic school, I was perfectly set up to live a life in Christ’s image. I’d learned a great deal about the bible from the people around me and felt as though my beliefs were concrete and unquestionable.
I felt this way up until my love of reading had introduced me to facts such as the geologic time scale and Darwinian evolution. I couldn’t reconcile these with my worldview, despite my best efforts to suppress them. Over several years, I amassed a collection of these devils that sat on my shoulder and contradicted what I had been taught and believed. I felt as though I was in a constant state of unrest as I tried to glue together my disintegrating faith using the most contorted mental gymnastics that I could muster.
After years of this, I couldn’t do it anymore. I sat at my desk in the corner of a dark room and began to seriously question why I held the beliefs I did. I was able to come up with three questions to better understand my thinking and conclusions:
- Why do I feel such an emotional attachment to the beliefs that I currently hold?
- How do the objective merits of other worldviews stack up against my own?
- On what basis should I assess my beliefs?
It was in trying to answer these three simple questions that I realized that my firm adherence to my faith had been based in emotion rather than reason, that I had known that my beliefs were empirically false, and that what is in accordance with reality should be the basis of knowledge. I remember walking out of my room with an incredibly powerful feeling that a significant burden had been lifted off my shoulders. This would be the start of a new life that I wouldn’t trade for anything. This is why I pity those who censure their owns thoughts in service to such a parasitic institution. This is why I’m an unabashed atheist.
Allen, 18, is from Newton, Pa., and will be attending the University of Texas at Austin, with plans to major in physics. He hopes to become a researcher after getting a master’s and doctorate in physics.